Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has made considerable progress in the recent past in the fields of education and research. During this period a good number of new universities and colleges have been established while older universities and institutions have progressed by leaps and bounds in terms of scientific research.
Universities like Kashmir University, SKAUST-Kashmir, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University and research institutions like IIIM, Jammu/Srinagar, SKIMS deemed University have left an indelible impression for themselves in terms of good quality, high impact research, as depicted by various research indices, after developing some state-of-the-art infrastructure for carrying out cutting edge research.
Other universities and research institutions like IUST, CUK, BGSBU, GMCs, SKAUST-J, NIT and IIT have also done fairly well by publishing some impactful and commendable research articles and reviews.
Infrastructure including laboratories and equipments installed during this period at these institutions has laid a strong foundation for taking the scientific research to all new heights in times to come.
Hon’ble Lieutenant of Jammu and Kashmir, Sh. Manoj Sinha has also time and again in his public interactions and monthly radio/television broadcasts been emphasizing upon the importance of harnessing innovation and undertaking quality research of international standards at our academic and research institutions.
Need of the hour is to pool all resources including high-end equipments and trained manpower and create common facilities in these universities and institutions that could be made available and accessible to all so that an optimum resource utilization is ensured and output of research is not only increased but drastically improved too.
In consonance with our local needs and demands and in order to accelerate research activity in J&K, it is imperative that we identify thrust areas of our research following which we need to devise a common research policy for all our research institutions and universities based on the mutually acceptable terms and broadly applicable contours.
This will pave way for a uniform, useful and productive approach of identifying our problems and devising solutions to them through scientific research. This is where a consortium of all research institutions and universities of J&K will come handy and provide a platform for mutual exchange of views, opinions and ideas on scientific research besides devising policies and procedures for sharing of mutual resources, infrastructure and other research facilities.
New National Education Policy (NEP-2020) also calls for dissolving all silos and compartments into which our academicians, researchers, educational and research institutions and departments have been working so far. It lays emphasis upon mutual sharing of not only ideas but also the facilities for innovation-incubation and research.
In view of the significant divergence of streams towards super-specialization, we need to keep generating cross talk between different streams since there is a possibility of losing sight of the latest advancements, recent developments and potential research opportunities in these areas.
Research consortium will comprise of a collegium of the best brains in scientific research and thus serve as a hub of incubation for novel and innovative research ideas of high importance. Such pooling of wisdom and creative talent will ultimately benefit the entire UT of Jammu and Kashmir in emerging as a leader of scientific research in the country.
The idea of J&K Research Consortium was originally conceived during 3rd J&K Medical Science Congress organized by Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) on December 30-32, 2019. This conference included a seminar and panel discussion on "Strategies for enhancing research in Jammu and Kashmir” and a brainstorming session on "Establishing a Research Consortium in J&K".
Main theme of the event was “Revitalizing the field of medical sciences in J&K” and the event was supported by the J&K Science, Technology and Innovation Council.
Renowned medicos, acclaimed researchers, accomplished academicians and reputed administrators participated in this conference besides scholars and students from various universities and research institutions of J&K.
Hectic deliberations were held on significant issues concerning biomedical research including financial, infrastructural and manpower requirements for undertaking credible and cutting edge research; policies, procedures and incentives required for collaborative, context-specific and need-based research; need for undertaking translational and socially-relevant research; importance of integrity and ethics in research. Several thrust areas were identified in the fields of non-communicable diseases, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, psychiatry, rural health, microbiology, nutrition, bioinformatics, neurology, geriatrics, immunology, child health, ophthalmology, genetics, environment, agriculture, veterinary sciences and ayurveda, with a view to identify potential research problems for undertaking collaborative and inter-disciplinary research under the aegis of J&K Research Consortium. Subsequently heads of all research institutions and universities of J&K were invited to be the patrons of the proposed consortium and nominate nodal officers for coordination with their respective institutions. It was resolved that one coordinator will be designated from each participating educational and research institute of Jammu and Kashmir and a research consortium will be established for promoting collaborative research work in J&K.
Second meeting of the J&K Research Consortium is now scheduled to be held in the month of September, 2023 that will be jointly organized by the University of Kashmir, SKIMS, Srinagar and Central University of Kashmir at a suitable venue in Srinagar.
Vice-Chancellors of all universities of J&K and heads of all research institutions and medical colleges are expected to grace this occasion and participate in further brainstorming on drafting a constitution of the proposed consortium, finalizing its aim and objectives, functions and priorities.
Thrust areas of research in J&K will be prioritized and chosen for undertaking research, MOUs are expected to be signed between partnering institutions and research collaborations will be fostered during this event. The scope of collaboration on academic and research activities to be pursued through J&K Research Consortium shall inter alia include:
1. Undertaking collaborative research work in the areas of mutual interest.
2. Mutual sharing of facilities like infrastructure and equipments, databases, e-resources, laboratory and library facilities.
3. Mutual exchange of visiting faculty, research scholars and students.
4. Joint organization and conduct of symposia, seminars, workshops and conferences.
5. Joint publication of research papers, books and patents.
6. Joint project proposal writing, funding application and execution.
J&K Research Consortium stands committed to rejuvenate the research ambience within J&K and come up with innovative ideas regarding multi-disciplinary research and academic collaborations.
It will devise plans for preparing and undertaking joint research projects as well as policies for involving external funding agencies.
It will strive to grow its sphere of activities in research in an incremental manner with a view to develop a comprehensive research plan with short and long-term objectives by assessing and reviewing ongoing research activities, driving collaboration to improve and extend research impact, deploying infrastructure and resources and developing a robust funding plan.
JK research consortium will have due representation from all research centres, prominent academic institutions and universities of J&K and shall provide a common platform to foster multi-disciplinary research in J&K.
Coordinators from all educational and research institutions will be a part of this consortium who will identify thrust areas of research and work in unison.
Consortium will have clearly defined objectives, functions and plan of action for research and will devise strategies to address contemporary issues and challenges in areas of scientific research, thereby identifying solutions to some of the most intriguing research problems of the region.
Though initially J&K Research Consortium will promote inter-disciplinary biomedical research with focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) locally at UT level, with the passage of time its purview and scope will be broadened to foster research collaborations with reputed institutions at national and international level too.
However, objectives, contours and modus operandi of any such mutual relationship will be properly defined by Memoranda-of-Understanding duly signed by authorized signatories of the collaborating institutions.
Further the consortium will make efforts to explore and utilize funding opportunities from reputed national funding agencies like ICMR, DBT, DST, UGC, AYUSH and other funding agencies at the national level for its thrust areas of research and thereby provide financial assistance to its collaborating universities and institutes for undertaking research in these areas.
In due course of time consortium will make efforts towards establishment of research centres within Universities with a view to address some of the most pressing and contemporary issues and challenges in the biomedical field.
Necessary approval from the government will be sought before establishing such centres where world-class, high-end research will be undertaken to bring out tangible solutions to the burgeoning scientific and biomedical problems of the region.
The idea of such consortium has received wide appreciation from national and international researchers and is expected to serve as a model for rest of the country.
(First author teaches at the University of Kashmir whereas second author is a renowned endocrinologist working at SKIMS, Srinagar. Views expressed are their own and not of the institutions for which they work)